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Grafton wind power forum attracts more than 70 people

More than 70 people attended the Grafton Select Board meeting on May 16 to discuss Iberdrola’s proposal to erect 28 wind turbines in Windham and Grafton.

After an hour of deliberating over the agenda and discussing the resignation of Select Board member Gus Plummer, who said he received an anonymous threat, a revised agenda was approved and Richard Saudek was invited to speak about the process of dealing with an industrial wind project.

Saudek, a lawyer with the firm Diamond & Robinson and earlier in his career served as Chairman of the Vermont Public Service Board, proceeded to discuss a number of issues that towns face when dealing with industrial wind projects, including project description, PSB’s power, issues of noise, length of contract. As the first Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, Saudek was involved in all aspects of utility regulation, from telephone and electric rates to power contract negotiations. He also represented the towns of Sheffield, Lowell, Searsburg and Readsboro in negotiating with developers.

Saudek also reminded attendees that they need to know what they willing to put up with, what standards they want including communication – having someone on site 24/7 with authority to make decisions. He emphasized what will happen to the roads – very big roads will need to be built to bring in the turbines, the impacts on private property (don’t want neighbors to suffer – who will be responsible – developers won’t, and he advises the towns not to get involved. He also said the developer will know the 121 households who are within one mile from the turbines and who will be affected and may make special deals with them. He made it clear that the developer needs the town to make the project work.

“Vermont is turning against wind development,” Saudek said.

Following Saudek’s talk, the issue of second homeowners being able to weigh in on the project was discussed. The board ended up tabling the item after much discussion of the legality. It was pointed out that several towns have approved the polling of second homeowners on the issue, including Windham and Londonderry.

The Select Board also discussed whether the town should hire a lawyer that the town would pay. This was tabled for a future date.